For the release of Our Small Faces, Jamie Moore spoke with Doubleback Books associate editor Bayleigh Kasper about her world building, characterization, and how her novella has changed since its original publishing.
Bayleigh Kasper: What is your writing process like? Any quirks or habits?
Jamie Moore: My writing process is all over the place. I tend to write in short vignettes and often in big spurts. I’m not great at writing every day because of my job(s). So when I feeling the call to write, usually early morning or late at night when everything is still, I try to focus as much as possible and give myself to the moment fully.
BK: Have you ever gotten reader’s block? What brought you out of it?
JM: Yes, definitely, especially because I read student essays all day. Poetry is usually the way to get out of reader’s block for me. Reading one or two poems and thinking of the beauty of the language feels like progress and motivates me to pick up a book.
BK: What is your writing Kryptonite?
JM: My to-do and my to-read list! I will get lost in work or other people’s words before I get to making my own, which is something I’m actively working on!
BK: Which of the characters in Our Small Faces do you see yourself most in? Are there any that were based on people you know?
JM: I think I see myself most in Zeke. He’s the one of the three friends that is not as quick to fall into the thinking around him while also taking on a lot of responsibility around him. He doesn’t think everything ends in their neighborhood, but feels loyalty and is a homebody at heart. All of these characters are loosely based on real people—circumstances reflect stories told to me or those I overheard in my communities and I took liberties with the personalities of the characters
BK: Since this is a re-release of your novella, do you have any different feelings, hopes, or fears as you send it out into the world this second time around?
JM: Thank you for this question because yes I do! After the acceptance and the re-release began to feel real, I got very nervous. I’m a different writer today than I was in 2014, especially as I study critical race and Black feminism as part of my doctoral work. I made small edits to language I didn’t want to dictate a certain reading of the text. I wanted to make it clear that the characters are searching for validation, often in the wrong ways. But I believe in the heart of this little book so much.
BK: I love the game your characters have come up with—Island—and how it metaphorically sets up the feelings of isolation and different-ness. Can you tell us more about the game, and how it relates to the rest of the story?
JM: The game of island is a mashup of a game told to me by an elder and that kind of game kids often play like “the floor is lava.” I grew up with very strict boundaries around where I could go and the limits of my play spaces. This came from my own parents’ fear of what could happen if I was out of their sight. Hearing elders in the community talk about this, I understood how deep that fear went—that fear for their life and/or physical danger was also embedded in these limits. Zeke, Leroy, and Selma lose some of their innocence as they began to encounter racism unmediated by their parents and have to figure out how they will draw their limits around their lives in the attempt to protect themselves. Island is the first iteration of that.
BK: What was the hardest scene for you to write in Our Small Faces?
JM: The scene between Zeke and Selma after he tries to confront her about what’s happening with Leroy and her new boyfriend. I wanted to convey the heaviness and tension and awkwardness that comes when vital friendships in your life are changing while also showing how important they are to each other.
BK: What was the easiest or most enjoyable scene to write?
JM: The opening scene with Selma’s parents. As I wrote her looking up at the picture of her grandmother, I was thinking of my own.
Jamie Moore is a writer and professor in California. She received her MFA in fiction and is a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow. She is an alumna of the VONA writers and Mendocino Coast writers workshops. She can be found on social platforms at @mixedreader.
Bayleigh Kasper recently graduated from the University of Evansville with a creative writing degree, where she was the co-Editor-in-Chief of The Evansville Review. She serves as associate prose editor at Doubleback Books.